Today I had an experience in Harlem that I never thought I’d have. Never in my sheltered, privileged life could I have imagined the experience I had today. Today God gave me the chance to love on a serial killer.
“Junior” came to the bus like many others just looking for interaction and food. Upon seeing that we advertise helping people get shelter and housing he asked to speak to one of us. By God’s grace I was free and sat down with him in the front of our retro-fitted mobile-soup-kitchen of a bus. He explained to me that he had recently had an operation where they cut off his toe due to a series of unfortunate events. To spare a long story becoming longer, I’ll nix the details. We ended up talking about his health issues for just a couple minutes and then the real conversation started.
He mentioned that he had gotten out of prison last year and due to this series of events had been hospitalized from November of last year until this past March. I asked the routine question with care;
“Do you mind if I ask what you were imprisoned for?”
He leaned in a little bit and replied softly (others were in earshot);
“for murder. several murders.”
When asking our guests that question I have heard many things but I hadn’t yet heard that. I listened quietly as he told me that he had killed 11 people and spent the past 37 years in prison. They wanted to initially give him the electric chair but he had people in his corner pleading for his case. Upon hearing a small part of the beginning of his story I was given just a tiny piece of understanding as to why he had decided to do what he did. “Junior” had been abused by his older brothers as a young child and then given drugs to cope with the hurt. I didn’t ask details and just let him tell what he wanted to. He had been imprisoned from the tender age of 14 and classified as a serial killer.
“I have to learn everything again.” He said, “Everything is new to me.”
My heart broke. I held back tears. Before me sat a 50 yr old man who had spent only 15 yrs outside of prison. The pain and torment he had endured and used to fuel his past decisions was tangible.
I gently poked at his heart.
“How have you been dealing with your pain since you got out? How is your heart?”
He said he had two people he relies on when things get tough on him mentally: his nephew and his son. He contacts them regularly and also has been taking medications for his mental health diagnoses. Along with a list of mental struggles he also has been burdened with a recent diagnosis of osteomyelitis which is, in short, why his toe got amputated. He also has cancer and a seizure disorder which was evident as soon as I sat down with him. His hands and face constantly twitched and often delayed a word or two from coming out of his mouth.
I felt God’s pain for the experiences this man had gone through. I felt his love and acceptance of him even though he had done many terrible things. I wanted to stay in that life care visit for much longer, I wanted to become his friend. God drove my heart towards him. God did, not me. That level of brokenness in a single human being I had never experienced first hand before, but God does every second of every day. I was given the tiniest taste of how God’s heart is broken for the broken.
After giving “Junior” some information about where he could go and who he could speak to about the needs he had, I asked about his faith. His answer gave me hope,
“I accepted Jesus last year” he said.
“How has that helped you since? Are you doing ok dealing with your struggles?”
“It’s been tough,” he said, “but it has helped me.”
He accepted prayer and I felt the Spirit stirring in me as God talked directly to him. The love of God is an overwhelming thing. It isn’t picky. It doesn’t hold back. IT RUNS towards the brokenness in all of us.
“Junior” is still struggling with mental and physical health problems, but he is struggling with the mightiest power under, behind, and above him. When he was with me he wasn’t depressed or sad or angry at his situation, he is just battling each day as it comes. Please join me in praying for continued healing and strengthened faith in God in the coming months and years as he looks to an unknown future. I believe his violent tendencies have been released by the overwhelming God.
It was only about 30 minutes of my day but when it was done I was wrecked. Sometimes being given a peek into the heart of God can do that to you. God hurts for the hurting. He weeps over trauma, no matter how massive or minute. He is a God that walks alongside those who have done wicked things (me and you) and waits for us to come running to him with his arms flung wide.
There is no darkness that the love of Christ can’t blind.
I’m just a broken man who’s been loved on so that I can continue loving on other broken people.